El Chapo or Pablo Escobar

Who was the best negotiator?

I wrote before about Pablo Escobar and how his infamous “Plato or Plomo” (silver or lead). That made him, in my eyes, a savvy negotiator. I do not support illegal activities and the killing, but I am fascinated by how bad, and good people negotiate. Just like I despise Donald Trump, but his book The Art of the deal provides relevant insights.

So, in the villains’ negotiations series, I introduce villain #2 El Chapo Guzman. And as I research the topic, I realise that the timing is excellent! Because he is on trial right now in NYC, and it is a tourist attraction!

El Chapo. In case you are not watching the series on Netflix, El Chapo was once ranked the 41st wealthiest man in the world! How they calculated how rich he was, well probably the best guess, just like how they derive the wealth of everyone else on that list. Still, if you are on Forbes radar, you are RICH. And if you are rich through drug smuggling, you have left bodies behind you. In the Netflix series, the estimate is between 2000 and 3000 bodies. Again, no clue how accurate this is, but it is a lot if one loses track of killings!

Timeline refresh. First, there was the Medellin Cartel, then the Gentlemen of Cali and then the Guadalajara cartel before giving us El Chapo Guzman.

Beside all the atrocities, what did he do right, negotiation wise?

  • Explicit messages: As clear as it gets. The shipment does not arrive, you do not live another day. That way there are two options. The shipment arrives, or you die trying.
  • Consistency: No (good) surprises. No variations. It is always the same outcome if you do not deliver. And make sure there are plenty of witnesses to spread the word!
  • Patience: Make time work for you. Understand how to leverage it. Understand when you must rely on time and when you can influence and make things move in your favour. During one of the episode, they show how many times he had to try to get his wife and children out and how he will abort the plan if everything was not perfect
  • Unpredictable: “I’ll be where they would never expect me to be” this is how he expected to evade the Marines and also how he got caught. I am sure that this strategy allowed him to confuse everyone who was after him!
  • Collaborate: Partner when you have to. And when you are the world largest drug exporter, you probably need to partner with a lot of people. Still, you make billions; you must understand how to a little as needed while ripping off massive benefits!

I want to understand how good skills are used by bad people. With this type of skills, El Chapo could have been a very legit and powerful man and leave a fantastic legacy. It is disturbing, just like when I heard that 1 out of 100 people is a psychopath. oh yeah, I’ll close on that to let it sink…

Author: The Negotiation Room

Negotiation superhero in the making. Passionate to improve the POC situation.